Behavior (psychology)

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Under behavior is understood in psychology observable action and reaction of people and animals .


Certain physiological reactions are also understood as behavior (e.g. sweating ), but this is differentiated from reflexes . Occasionally, aspects of the experience (e.g. cognitive processes) also count as behavior. The term behavior is used inconsistently in psychology. Shaping the understanding of behavior was behaviorism . In neo-behaviorism, it is crucial that the processes involved are targeted, recurring and can be explained according to the stimulus-organism-reaction model .

Definitions in textbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias

Friedrich Dorsch's "Psychological Dictionary" defines behavior as "any physical activity of a living organism that (generally speaking to psychological processes) can basically be determined by other observers (i.e. 'objectively')". However, “processes of experience (thinking, willing, etc.) are now often referred to as V [receiving]”.

The "Lexicon of Psychology" is one of behavior and a. the perceptible and measurable activity of an organism, but also all observable and non-observable activity of an individual or a group. Ultimately, the authors point out that the concept of behavior is used differently in the various sub-disciplines of psychology.

“Behaviors are reactions that occur more or less in a stimulus-specific manner”.

In behaviorism

The behaviorism viewed the behavior as a subject of its own validity, not as an indicator of "really" important processes at other levels (a neural, cognitive, mental or conceptual), which would then be considered as the "real" causes of behavior.

For John B. Watson , the behavior was either explicit or implicit. Explicit behavior was open behavior that occurred either immediately or with a time delay after a stimulus. The implicit behavior was obscured and filled the time gap between the stimulus and the behavior if it did not occur immediately after the stimulus. Watson considered thinking to be the prototypical implicit behavior. For Watson, behavior was a change that followed a certain stimulus. That is, behavior was seen as a kind of interaction between the organism and the environment. This is why physical processes such as the release of hormones etc. were a legitimate subject of his form of behavioral science: he considered them to be stimuli to which the organism reacted.

BF Skinner defined behavior in 1938 as what an organism does when it is related to its environment. However, behavior here initially only meant externally visible movements. Later Skinner also explicitly viewed covert activities (such as thinking) that are not visible from the outside as behavior. The radical behaviorism he founded is called “radical” precisely because it regards everything that a person does as behavior.

An activity becomes behavior when it takes place in a regular relationship to environmental events. A person's heartbeat is only considered behavior if it changes due to environmental events (e.g. after a loud bang). Behavior is thus a relational property of an activity, not intrinsic , comparable to the property of a man to be a husband (this can be a man only in relation to another person, his wife, his), or a celestial body, a planet to be (A celestial body is only a planet if, among other things, it orbits a star).

Behavior is an activity that emanates from the organism, it is goal-oriented. If a person falls over from being pushed, that movement is not considered behavior. Behavior is goal-oriented in that it fulfills a function in relation to the organism's environment.

Some authors see a certain image of man in the way of looking at behaviorism , which can be recognized by the difference to the concept of action .

Classifications of behavior

Open, subtle, covered

Open and covert behavior is described according to the degree of its observability. Open behavior is behavior that can be easily observed from the outside (e.g. body movements), covert behavior is behavior that a person can only "observe" in himself (e.g. thinking). This is a dimensional, not a categorical difference: behavior is more or less open or hidden. Occasionally, subtle behavior is also mentioned, behavior that is difficult to observe from the outside (e.g. eye movements when reading a text). Many behaviors also contain both overt and covert elements.

Respondent and operant

Skinner uses respondent behavior to describe behavior that is triggered by previous environmental events (e.g. a reflex ). Operant behavior, on the other hand, is shaped by its consequences: whether it occurs or not is mainly due to the consequences of this behavior in similar situations in the past. Operant behavior is shown, not triggered, ie it can occur with a certain probability in certain situations, but the situation does not force the behavior to occur.

Rule-guided and shaped by contingency

Skinner distinguished behavior that is shaped by its immediate consequences as contingency-shaped behavior from rule-based behavior that occurs because the person follows a certain rule. For example, orientation in a foreign city based on the instructions of a navigation system is a rule-based behavior. The person implements the "rules" of the navigation system without this behavior having already been shaped by consequences. However, the person has previously learned through consequences that following rules (such as the rules of the navigation system) leads to desired results (arriving at the destination). If the person stays longer in a city, the rule-based behavior becomes contingency-shaped: The person “simply knows” how to walk, the immediate consequences of the behavior (e.g. turning at a certain intersection) shape the behavior immediately . Likewise, the behavior of an inexperienced billiard player (who follows rules such as " angle of incidence equals angle of reflection ") differs from the behavior of an experienced billiard player (who plays "by feeling").

Behavior and action

Occasionally, behavior is distinguished from action . Action is behavior that is preceded by a design, motivated, planned, arbitrarily controlled behavior.

Levels of manifestation of behavior

Behavior can also be categorized according to its levels of manifestation . Behavior manifests itself on the motor level (the person does something that can be observed from the outside), on the cognitive level (the person thinks something), on the emotional level (he feels something) and on the physiological level (the behavior goes with the physiological Accompanying changes).

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Dorsch / Hartmut Häcker / Kurt-Hermann Stapf: Dorsch Psychological Dictionary. 11th supplementary edition. Huber, Bern a. a. 1987, p. 727.
  2. ^ Wilhelm Arnold / Hans J. Eysenck / Richard Meili: Lexicon of Psychology . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau a. a 1993, p. 2454.
  3. James Drever / Werner D. Fröhlich, German dictionary for psychology , 1970, p. 278
  4. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: Whatever happened to psychology as the science of behavior? In: American Psychologist . 42 (8), 1987, p. 780. "Behavior ... as a subject matter in its own right"
  5. Jay Moore: Conceptual foundations of radical behaviorism. Sloan Publishing, Cornwall-on-Hudson 2008, p. 56.
  6. ^ John B. Watson: Behaviorism. WW Norton & Company, New York 1925.
  7. ^ John B. Watson: Psychology as the behaviorist views it. In: Psychological Review. 20 (2), 1913, pp. 158-177.
  8. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: The Behavior of Organisms. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York 1938, p. 6. "behavior is what an organism is doing (...) is that part of the functioning of an organism which is engaged in acting upon or having commerce with the outside world"
  9. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: About Behaviorism. Random House, New York 1974.
  10. ^ A. Charles Catania: Learning. (4th interim). Sloan Pub. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY 2007.
  11. ^ William M. Baum: What counts as behavior? The molar multiscale view. In: The Behavior Analyst. 36 (2), 2013, pp. 283-293.
  12. Eckard König : Qualitative research in the field of subjective theories , in König / Zedler Qualitative Research , 2nd edition, page 55, Beltz-Verlag 2002
  13. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: Behaviorism at fifty. In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 7 (4), 1984, pp. 615-667.
  14. L. Keith Miller: Principles of Everyday Behavior Analysis. Brooks-Cole, Pacific Grove 1997.
  15. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: The Behavior of Organisms. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York 1938.
  16. also Michael Domjan: Elicited versus emitted behavior: Time to abandon the distinction. In: Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. 105 (2), 2016, pp. 231–245.
  17. ^ Burrhus Frederic Skinner: An operant analysis of problem solving. In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 7 (4), 1984, pp. 583-613.
  18. ^ Margaret E. Vaughan: Rule-Governed behavior. In: Steven C. Hayes (Ed.): Rule-Governed Behavior. Plenum Press, New York, 1989, pp. 97-118.
  19. Andreas Bodenstedt / Andreas Nebelung, Ökologische Soziologie , 2003, p. 221
  20. ^ Frederick H. Kanfer / Jeanne S. Phillips: Learning foundations of behavior therapy. Wiley, New York, 1970.